Leading article: A flawed election, but some flickers of hope

Share
Related Topics

Forget the obvious – that hardliners have come out on top in the elections in Iran. That was a given, given the pressures, ruthlessly applied, on Iran's struggling and downcast moderates. This election was never going to see a comeback by progressive forces, numerous as they are, especially among the young, who yearn to escape the regime's policy of suffocating piety at home and confrontation abroad.

If the moderates have taken more than 40 of the 290 seats in the Iranian assembly, they will have done well, when it is remembered that they made up most of the almost 2,000 candidates disqualified from the election. But if we put aside a view of the election as a trial of strength between moderates and conservatives and observe it as a power struggle within the conservative camp, it all looks far more interesting.

From one side of the stage, we have the apocalyptic ultras, chanting in favour of Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. From the other, enter the so-called pragmatic conservatives who feel the president has gone too far in confronting the West over nuclear power.

Note, then, the landslide victory in the holy city of Qom of Ari Larijani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator. A pragmatist standard-bearer, Larijani is also seen as a potential challenger to Ahmadinejad in next year's presidential elections, which in some ways will be more important than the parliamentary vote, given parliament's circumscribed role.

Some Iran watchers see the vote in a clerical stronghold like Qom as a sign that the powerful clergy have lost confidence in Ahmadinejad and may rally behind Larijani, if he stands in 2008. Those of us in the West who support jaw-jaw rather than war-war with Iran can only trust that a new president in Iran – not to mention a new president in the White House – might offer a way out of the current depressing logjam.

Of course, we must not harbour the illusion that even if the so-called pragmatists outflank Ahmadinejad, this will mean more than a change of style. Larijani himself has insisted that his differences with the president are largely down to presentation. The pragmatic conservatives have no real ideological differences with Ahmadinejad, therefore. Much of their dislike of him boils down to distrust of his economic policies. Throwing cash at the poor in a populist fashion may have made the president a hero in working-class south Tehran. But it's clear the spending spree has triggered an inflationary surge – running at 20 per cent – that is hitting the poor hardest. These trends worry many Iranians. But it would be mistaken to assume such critics of the president have reformist axes to grind when the source of their hostility is entirely different.

At the same time, we must not dismiss hints of change in Iran's political landscape as irrelevant. Five years after the start of the Iraq war, Iran's status as a regional behemoth is more than obvious. It is a direct, though inadvertent, consequence of the war that the United States led and which Britain so enthusiastically – and foolishly – backed. We must live with the realities of this new balance of power, at the same time as doing our best to dissuade an overambitious Iran and and an aggressive US from military confrontation. To escape that dismal outcome, we need a new constellation of forces: Iran minus Ahmadinejad and Washington minus George Bush – although John McCain's gung-ho approach to Iran does not offer much consolation. But there remains hope that the plates may shift and space open up. Europe might even be able to revive its old policy of constructive engagement with Tehran. Not the rosiest scenario, but the best we can expect in the circumstances.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of waste ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Civil Engineering

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Business: This company is going thro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea